Growing Scotland’s population by attracting immigrants from overseas will be the “greatest national challenge” facing the country following Brexit, Nicola Sturgeon has said.
In a stark warning about the consequences of ending freedom of movement, she said big cuts to immigration would hit public services and potentially trigger a recession.
The Scottish First Minister said she wanted to “change the narrative” around migration as she launched a new economic analysis on the potential impact of Brexit.
Research by the Scottish Government predicts that a no-deal Brexit would leave the nation’s economy £12.7bn a year worse off by 2030, the equivalent of £2,300 per person.
This would amount to 8.5 per cent being wiped off Scotland’s GDP, with people’s disposable income and business investment also cut by around 10 per cent each.
The paper also contained a chapter on freedom of movement, stating that ensuring EU citizens are free to live and work in Scotland after Brexit is “essential” to grow the economy.
The analysis found that EU citizens working in Scotland contributed £4.4bn a year to the nation’s economy and an average of £10,400 in government revenue.
“Growing our population, and particularly our working age population, is perhaps the greatest national challenge that we face,” Nicola Sturgeon warned.
“Over the next 25 years, our own projected birth rate will not be sufficient to grow our population. In the period to 2041, all of our projected population growth will come from inward migration.
“Without that, our population could go into decline and with it our ability to grow our economy and fund our public services…that would be the stark reality for Scotland of a restriction in our ability to attract people to our country.”
The European Movement in Scotland described the figures in the report as “deeply disturbing”, saying the analysis proved that Brexit was “economic suicide”.
A UK Government spokeswoman said: “We are seeking a deal that works for the whole of the UK, that delivers on the result of the EU referendum.
“Rather than trying to undermine the result of a democratic referendum, we urge the Scottish government to work with us to ensure, as we leave the EU, we protect the UK’s vital internal market.”